HAVANA TIMES — Talks to restore relations with Cuba will not be affected by the escalating tensions between the US and Venezuela, and the unconditional support offered by Havana to President Nicolas Maduro, said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Wednesday.
The reassurance came only hours after President Raul Castro expressed support for Maduro and former leader Fidel Castro wrote a public letter congratulating the Venezuelan president for standing up to the aggressive intervention from Washington in days previous.
“Discussions on restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba will continue as planned, they will definitely not be affected,” said Psaki in a press conference in Washington.
The official response from the State Department spokesperson came in answering a question on whether the rhetoric of confrontation in the letter of Fidel Castro could affect negotiations between Washington and Havana. In his letter, the elderly leader congratulates Maduro for his “brilliant and courageous speech on the brutal plans of the US government.”
A statement from the Cuban government issued Monday night criticized Obama’s decision noting that “nobody has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign state or to declare them, without foundation, as a threat to its national security.”
Psaki recalled that the intention of President Obama’s executive order is not to promote unrest in Venezuela, as Maduro suggested in his speech, nor to cause detriment to the Venezuelan economy or government. “We want to send a clear and strong message that we do not accept human rights violators and corrupt officials.”
She added that besides the seven Venezuelan officials mentioned in the executive order from Obama, the president will have the option of further sanctions to the extent necessary.
Cuban official speaks to farmers in Virginia
Coinciding with the declaration from Psaki, the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, Jose Ramon Cabañas, was in Richmond, Virginia encouraging agricultural entrepreneurs from the state to boost business and visit the island. Cabañas spoke about the process of restoring relations, but acknowledged that “it is still a long way from the normalization” of ties between the two countries.
During Cabañas presentation at a statewide conference on agricultural commerce, the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, announced he will travel to Cuba as part of a trade mission to try to expand relations with Cuba.
The April 10-11 Summit of the Americas
Meanwhile, the tensions unleashed between Caracas and Washington promise an unpleasant chapter at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, whose highlight was expected to be the return of Cuba to the forum and the meeting between Obama and Raul Castro.
Following the steps of the White House, declaring Venezuela a national security threat, the issue of Venezuela will move to the forefront and the climate of harmony and cooperation that seemed feasible in Panama could turn into a storm of division, between supporters of Maduro and those governments closest to Washington.